Sunday, June 14, 2020

The 14th of June, 1944 - D + 8, The Cotentin

Another hedgerow...

Corporal Jack Wilson looked down at his field jacket sleeves, the stripes which 2Lt Heintzelman had inked on a week ago were rather faded now. Didn't really matter, the guys in their platoon knew the score. Even the ten replacements they'd received knew who was who. Heintzelman and SSG Andersen made sure of that.

"How are you doing Jack, get enough to eat?" Sgt Bill Brandt was grinning from ear to ear, they were back from the front, just for a day, but cookie had managed to get ahold of pork chops from somewhere. Bill wondered if any French farmers were missing a pig!

"Why do I feel like this is the condemned man's last meal, Sarn't Bill? I mean it's damned good, but, you know what I mean." Jack had paused only briefly before wolfing down another pork chop. Damn but he was hungry, six days on the line will do that to you, I guess.

Sgt Brandt chuckled, patted Jack on the shoulder and went to talk to the two rookies which had been assigned to their squad. One was a kid who didn't even look like he was shaving yet, the other was a dark complected guy from New Orleans, or "N'awlins" as he persisted in calling it.

Sgt Brandt sat with the two new kids, got comfortable and said, "Alright, we're going on a patrol tonight, company commander wants to know what's around the next bend in the road, so..."

Another soldier sitting nearby chuckled and cracked, "I dunno Sarge, another f**king field, more f**king Krauts. Hey, maybe we can run into a f**king Kraut tank."

Sgt Brandt shook his head, sighed, then looked at the soldier, "You kiss your mother with that mouth Moriarity? How about you just shut up and eat? Okay?"

The one thing Brandt couldn't get used to in the Army was the language, not that he hadn't heard it all before, but it seemed most of the guys couldn't get a sentence out without that four-letter epithet populating half the sentence. He actually had been a choir boy when he was a kid, nobody in his family ever used that sort of language. Then again, his paternal grandfather, born and raised in Germany, was constantly mumbling about things in German. Bill had learned what a couple of those words meant, seems Opa wasn't a saint.

"Okay, N'Awlins, what's your name?"

"Andre Tremblay, Sergeant."

"Hhmm, do you speak French?"

"Ah, I speak Cajun, it's kinda the same but different. These folks round here seem to understand what I'm saying fair enough."

"Give me your canteen."


"Your canteen."

Pvt Andre Tremblay reluctantly handed over his canteen, Sergeant Brandt unscrewed the top, smelled the contents, then took a swig. Stuff made his eyes water, but it was good for the nerves.

"Where'd you get the applejack Andre?"

"Ah, that French farmer near battalion headquarters sold it to me."

"Can you get more?"

"Sure Sarge, but..."

"Don't sweat it, I'll pay for it. I want the guys to have something to look forward to after a patrol. Like tonight."

The other new kid looked like he was scared witless by that last statement. So Bill turned to him.

"What's your name kid, you're from someplace up North, aren't you?"

"Olson, Theodore Olson, Sergeant."

"Do you go by Ted or by Theodore?"

"Everybody back home calls me Ollie, Sergeant. My mama calls me Teddy, my papa calls me Theodore."

Bill nodded, thought for a few minutes, then said, "I want you two to sit this one out, it's going to be dark, it's probably going to rain, and I don't want either of you getting under foot tonight."

"But Sarge," Tremblay began to protest. Sgt Brandt shushed him.

"Jack's only taking four guys tonight, stick with the rest of the squad, we'll see what the morning brings. Alright?"

The two young soldiers looked relieved and a bit miffed at the same time. Both had heard what combat was like. Of course, they'd heard it from rear area types who thought combat was getting shelled on the beach.

"Jesus Andre, I just want to get this over with."

"Be careful what you wish for, ami."

German paratroopers with MG 42, Normandy.

"Johannes, you and Martin go get some food and some sleep. We're on until midnight. It's supposed to rain tonight so I don't think the Amis will be wandering around looking for trouble. I'll send a runner for you."

Gefreiter Johannes Klepper and Flieger Martin Bendfeldt, stumbled back to their "quarters." It was just a rough dugout scraped into the bottom of a hedgerow, but it kept them concealed and by stringing a couple of shelter-quarters overhead, it kept the rain out. Comfortable? No. Better than sleeping under the stars? Yes.

Their platoon of paratroopers had been much reduced in the last few days. Before the Amis and Tommies had landed, they were at nearly full strength, nearly forty men. Since then, they'd lost fifteen men, killed, wounded, and missing. Klepper's squad had six men, instead of the usual ten. But they had scrounged an MG-42 and none of the men still had a rifle, they had MP-40 submachine guns and two FG-42s, so everyone had an automatic weapon. As long as they had the MG-42, they could put some serious firepower out of their position.

Klepper was awakened at nearly midnight by the sounds of a firefight. But something was odd, he didn't notice the quite different sounds made by American weapons, these sounded all German.

He awakened Bendfeldt and they moved out towards their comrades. Something was wrong, very wrong.

As Jack Wilson and his small fire team approached the crossroads, he heard something in the field adjacent to their position. He knew that they were the only patrol out here, well, they were supposed to be the only patrol out here, but you never knew.

Fred Thomas, an old hand, slid up next to Jack and murmured, "Krauts."

Sure enough, Jack could hear them speaking German. What were these guys thinking, moving in the open in the night? As he pondered that, he heard another German voice from the crossroads.


Before the guys in the field could give the countersign, Thomas yelled out, "F**k you!"

The kid on the MG, seventeen years old, from Passau, didn't hesitate. The sergeant had given the challenge and an unmistakable American voice had answered, so he opened fire.

The squad from the 916th Grenadier Regiment of the 352nd Infantry Division were quite lost. The squad leader heard the challenge, but didn't know the response. Before he could react an American-sounding voice had yelled something which he couldn't quite make out. Still, his boys managed to return fire, but too little, too late.

At least forty rounds of 7.92 mm machine gun fire had ripped through his squad. From what he could see, he had at least three dead, and two more who wouldn't see the sunrise without a Sani¹.

"Feuer einstellen du Scheißkerl! Wir sind deutsche soldaten!"²

Oberfeldwebel Müller waited, he could hear another German, probably the guy commanding the position, yelling at his men to hold their fire.

"Wait for it, wait for it..." Jack whispered to his squad. When he saw the Germans who had opened fire advance into the open to collect the other Germans, he saw his chance.

"Open fire, cut 'em down boys."

Fred Thomas' BAR³ opened up, he knew he nailed at least two Krauts, the rest of the team fired and after a few seconds there was no movement from the field. Jack could hear the German wounded groaning in pain, then one man started to scream, "Mutti!!"

"Let's get out of here, we saw what we needed to see."

Jack Wilson's fire team vanished into the night.

Gefreiter Johannes Klepper and Flieger Martin Bendfeldt had arrived at their gun position in time to see their three comrades cut down by what had to be American weapons. Klepper was at a loss for what to do. Up until then he had only heard German weapons. Who was shooting at who?

"Martin, man the gun, watch over there," he gestured towards where he thought the American fire had come from. "I'm going out there."

Advancing cautiously, he found the three guys from their squad, including their sergeant, all dead. A bit further on were a number of Army troopers, "what the Hell are these guys doing out here," he muttered. One of the Army guys was still alive, a sergeant, but he was grievously wounded.

"What were you Arschlöcher shooting at?"

Before Klepper could answer, the sergeant was dead.

Friendly fire, it ain't.

¹ Sani - German Army slang for a medic, a Sanitäter.
² Hold your fire you bastards, we're German soldiers!
³ Browning Automatic Rifle


  1. Replies
    1. Yup, Ollie.

      There may be a backstory to that, if he survives.

  2. Or Olie?

    What a messy way to go.

  3. Love the new header. Tarleton's Charge? Or Charge of The Light Brigade?

  4. The Fog of War. Things were so much simpler when people only fought during the day, at hand-to-hand range, with either their equipment or their faces to show who was whom...

    No. Not really. One of the favored tactics of Norman cavalry was to attack a shield wall, hammer for a few moments, and then fake-rout in hopes of suckering some poor schmucks into breaking the shield wall. Which worked at the Battle of Hastings.

    Or.. Lee saying "Don't Charge" and Pickett hearing "Charge."


    And you illustrated so well why it sucks.

    1. Well is cruelty refined. Someone famous said that.

    2. @Beans, I'm not completely sure that by that time in the day at Hastings, that feigned rout wasn't at least partially real. IIRC, they'd tried that more than once without the Anglo-Saxons taking the bait (or not as completely). The Normans damned near lost that battle, and likely still wouldn't have won it without Harold going down. It might've ended up as a bloody, inconclusive draw which would've been a strategic setback for William as the Anglo-Saxons continued to receive reinforcements that Harold had not deigned to wait for in his rush to confront William.

    3. I need to read up on that time period, there is much I learned back in the day which recent research has shed light on. Much of what we learned growing up seems so much nonsense now. In other words, historians getting things wrong.

  5. The developing story line, not too shabby Sarge.......not too shabby at all. The Normandy combat footage was a good find, the inevitable stiff-legged cow carcass. Interesting to see the Stuarts in such confined territory, ya...I know there was a light tank company in the Army TOE. Not that a Sherman had much thicker armor than a Stuart.

    1. I think Donald Rumsfeld might have said something about going to war with the Army you've got, not the Army you'd like.

      I stumbled across that footage, thought it provided a good context to the overall story.

    2. M3 Lights and M5 Lights were used till the end of the war as scouts and security and all the other things you need a light tank to do. Though they were being replaced by the M24 with a 75mm gun.

      Interesting things were done with the chassis in the field. Some were turned into ad-hoc armored personnel carriers by removal of the turret and a ring around the now hole used to mount a .50 cal. Others were turned into repair vehicles or engineering vehicles with the addition of a jack-framed crane (again, with the removal of the turret) and as towing vehicles (again, with removal of turret) as a field-expedient version of a regular tractor.

    3. It's like the difference between light and heavy cavalry. Also, a light tank can be a better bet than an armored car. Especially if it has good mobility.

  6. As my sergeants used to tell me, back before I became a sergeant telling my junior Soldiers the same thing, "friendly fire refers to its origin, not its effects."

  7. (Don McCollor)...Quick thinker, that Thomas! Another good episode Sarge!...

    1. Get the enemy confused, keep 'em confused.

      Thanks Don!


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